Baseball is almost back, and here at Motor City Bengals, we couldn’t be more excited. As always, we’re endeavoring to provide our readers with the best Detroit Tigers content possible. To that end, we’re taking a note from our friends at SB Nation’s Red Sox blog Over the Monster. Although the Tigers probably won’t be winning anything soon, it’s still worth examining each player on their 40-man roster. In this series, we’ll look at individual players through the lens of one big question they’ll face entering the 2020 season. If changes are made to the roster between now and Opening Day, we’ll cover the newly added players. Enjoy!
The Question: Will Grayson Greiner be able to hang onto his spot on the Major League roster?
Little could have gone worse for Grayson Greiner in 2019. He was positioned well to make his impact as the season started. Coming off a Triple-A campaign that saw him put up strong offensive numbers, there was no player in the organization posed a viable challenge to his position as the starting backstop. Despite so many factors in his favor and the Tigers finishing as the worst team in baseball, Greiner is heading to Spring Training this season completely vulnerable to usurpation.
The opening months of 2019 were most unkind to Greiner. The enormous catcher was batting only .162/.231/.279 when he strained his lower back and was placed on the 10-day injured list on June 13th. His five home runs at that point were an encouraging sign, and a speedy recovery could have enabled him to reclaim his spot as an everyday player in spite of his lackluster performance.
Instead, the Tigers eventually transferred Greiner to the 60-day injured list. He wouldn’t appear in Detroit again until a September game against the Royals. (Interestingly enough, Kansas City was the opponent when Greiner hurt his back as well.) The surface numbers would indicate that 15-game conclusion to the season was a roaring success. Managing 17 hits in 54 plate appearances totals an impressive .321 batting average, but that was an empty figure. Only three of those hits were for extra bases, he struck out over a quarter of the time, and he didn’t draw a single walk.
Understandably, the Tigers made acquiring catching depth a priority this offseason.
As it stands now, Greiner has the inside track to the backup catching job in Detroit. All the tools that made him a prospect are still extant. He has a good understanding of how to catch and provides solid defense behind the plate and has consistently exerted himself to improve that aspect of the game. His large frame provides the occasional bolt of power. He’ll probably never be a major offensive piece, but there’s still a chance for him to provide enough useful at-bats to justify keeping him on the active roster.
The biggest threat to Greiner’s position is the newly-acquired Eric Haase and his monster raw power. Detroit tends to be loyal to players who have spend a longer time in the organization, but the fact of the matter is that both are deeply flawed players. We may also see them carousel between Toledo and Detroit’s rosters as needed while Jake Rogers marinates a little longer in Triple-A.
At this point it’s unclear how the catching situation will shake out at almost any point in the organization. Greiner is hanging onto his edge for a big league job by a fingernail, and it’ll almost assuredly go to whoever has the hottest spring. Can he establish himself as a long-term part of the equation in 2020? We’ll probably won’t have to wait long for our answer.